My Major Moments

By Randall MellDecember 28, 2010, 5:30 am

I got dumped for Clint Eastwood on a golf date. I choked hitting a shot in front of Morgan Pressel. I was moved listening to Erik Compton’s brother explain how their remarkable family happily endures, and I practically leaped out of my shoes watching the most exciting birdie I’ve ever seen.

This column comes with a “first-person” warning.

As you’ve already observed, it’s a highly personalized look back at 2010.

My golf travels don’t take me out every week, but this is my eyewitness account of 10 poignant moments that moved me this year:


A different kind of cat

A few years back, I was standing under “The Tree” behind the Augusta National Clubhouse when Tiger Woods strode out of the locker room door on his way to a practice round at the Masters.

It was classic Tiger.

His eyes were locked on his destination, the practice putting green. He came out marching briskly, purpose in every stride. With a cluster of cameramen racing to keep up, one poor fellow tried to stay in front of Woods for his shot. Backpedaling furiously, he slammed into a low-hanging branch. Never saw what hit him. Woods didn’t break stride, didn’t flinch, didn’t even seem to blink on his way to the green. I remember thinking there isn’t an uncertain cell in Tiger’s body.

I was there again last spring, when Woods played a Monday practice round. It was his first public appearance since the sex scandal broke.

As I followed Woods that day, I kept thinking: “Who is this guy?” The purposeful stride, the certainty of gesture, were gone. He wandered the course more than he marched it. There was almost timidity in the way he gratefully and uncertainly reached out to fans who followed him. He later acknowledged he was nervous about what patrons would think of him. That Monday will always remind me what Tiger Woods faced in trying to find himself and his game in his new life.

Cristie lets her hair down

With Cristie Kerr walking onto the 18th green at the end of her record 12-shot victory at the LPGA Championship, she literally let her hair down. She took off her cap, undid her pony tail and shook out her long, blonde locks to the delight of the fans who cheered her there. The win made her the first American to become No. 1 in the Rolex women’s world rankings.

“Who is this woman?” I remember thinking.

As a South Florida golf writer, I saw Kerr in her early years, when she was a pudgy, bespectacled teenager who left her spike marks on all the teens she demolished growing up. Sometimes, I felt like she had left her spike marks on me. This was a girl who played on the boys’ team at Miami Sunset High and once told Robert Floyd, the son of famed Raymond Floyd, that she was going to kick his butt before their match. And then she did kick his butt. This was a girl more fighter than golfer in spirit, but I’ll always remember her letting her hair down like never before in that record rout at Locust Hill.

High-Plains Drifter

What Clint Eastwood giveth, Clint Eastwood taketh away.

In my best assignment of the year, I was scheduled to play Pebble Beach for a story with the head professional, Chuck Dunbar. On the eve of the round, his assistant called to ask if I minded showing up early because a friend of Dunbar’s wanted to play with us. The friend, she said, was actor/comedian George Lopez.

With Lopez standing there, the first-tee jitters in my first round at Pebble Beach doubled. Lopez explained that he had a golf date scheduled with Eastwood at Cypress Point that morning but Eastwood had to cancel when an unexpected meeting came up. Lopez was personable, down-to-earth, a real golf fan. We talked about the upcoming Accenture Match Play Championship walking down the first fairway, about his friend Mike Weir on the second tee, but then Lopez’s cell phone rang at the third tee box. It was Clint Eastwood. He was out of his meeting earlier than expected and wanted to know if George could still make a morning tee time at Cypress Point.

'Did I hit five shots or six on the last hole?' I thought to myself as Lopez was whisked away to meet up with Eastwood. 'To tell you the truth, in all the excitement, I lost track myself.'

For the young among you, that leads into a famous Eastwood line from Dirty Harry.

Dumped for Clint Eastwood and Cypress Point, I can live with that. A man, after all, has got to know his limitations. In the back of my mind, though, I’ll always wonder if George felt like Eastwood’s call was a reprieve after enduring two of my wayward tee shots.

Knowing thyself

People take this the wrong way, but I’ve always been more riveted listening to an athlete who has just endured a heartbreaking loss than one who’s just realized a dream.

There’s no sadistic delight waiting on a player who has just lost something, but you often learn a lot more about the nature of a player’s character when he's stripped bare.

That’s what I’ll remember about listening to Dustin Johnson when he came out of the locker room after his controversial penalty for grounding his club in a bunker at the end of the PGA Championship. While Johnson made himself look bad admitting he never read the local rules sheet that week, I sensed this was a man with an unwavering sense of himself despite what happened at Whistling Straits and the final round of the U.S. Open. He screwed up, but he wasn’t a screw up. That’s what I got standing next to Johnson that day. I left thinking this was a guy we were going to see put himself right back in the hunt because he wasn’t afraid of large moments or what they could do to him.

Choking under pressure

In my former life as the golf writer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, I covered Morgan Pressel from the day she burst onto the scene as a 12-year-old who qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open. That’s what made me feel so awkward over my own shot in the Morgan & Friends Fight Breast Cancer Golf Tournament at her home club at St. Andrews in Boca Raton, Fla. Pressel’s helped raise more than $1.1 million in the fight over the last three years. She was on our tee box to help us hit a shot there.

“Randy,” she said. “Do you know this is the first time I’ve ever seen you swing a golf club?”

I promptly hooked my tee shot in the trees. It wasn’t a good year for me playing in front of professionals. I missed a 2-foot putt to lose a hole in front of Gavin Coles at Orange County National.

Getting a grip

I wrote that when Arnold Palmer stepped out his front door for the taping of Golf Channel’s “12 Nights at the Academy,' you could swear the clouds stopped rolling to hold their position. At 81, Palmer still has a commanding presence. I got to step into his garage at Bay Hill with a half dozen other reporters to watch Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman lead Palmer through the show. It was a treat watching Palmer tinker in his garage, showing Tilghman exactly how his father taught him to grip the club.

“When I need to be alone and do my thing, this is where I go,” Palmer said of his garage. “It’s nice to get down here. It’s very quiet. Nobody knows where I am, unless I tell them. I get away from everything.”

Golf’s wildest setting

Being on the first tee at the start of a Ryder Cup makes you wonder if golf might be better off with chanting, heckling and booing.

It’s a crazy-stupid thought, but if you’ve ever been to the start of a Ryder Cup, you can’t help wondering.

Even a steady rain couldn’t dampen the mood at the start of the matches in Wales this fall. I was behind the first tee, getting soaked, when Stewart Cink lifted his cap to the massive crowd. Exposing his bald dome ignited one of many original moments there.

“We’ve got more hair!” Europeans began chanting with Cink laughing.

Golf’s most remarkable family

I followed Erik Compton during the first round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and wrote that just teeing it up made his the most remarkable performance in 110 years of the championship. He is, after all, the only player to qualify with not just one heart transplant behind him, but two.

I walked with Compton’s parents, Peter and Eli. I also walked with Compton’s wife, Barbara, and his older brother, Christian. They’re a remarkable family that remains strong and vital despite all their troubles. Eli is a cancer survivor. Christian’s also had his problems. He was temporarily paralyzed after breaking his neck in a snowboarding accident in college but has nearly completely recovered.

Christian delivered my all-time favorite quote that day putting his recovery into perspective. He offered words that captured the family’s good humor and brave spirit.

“In my family, a broken neck’s not enough to complain about,” Christian told me.

Goose bumps and golf shots

On the eve of the Ryder Cup, I walked parts of Celtic Manor with Larry Dorman of the New York Times.

Though the sun was slashing through the gray clouds over the Usk Valley, scouting the course was still a tricky proposition. The hillsides were mucky and wet and some folks were sporting dirty seat bottoms from their spills. But it was more than worth the walk with blue patches of sky opening as we made our way back to the 18th hole. Usk Valley was heavenly when the sun won its battles with the gloom there.

On the hillside above the finishing hole, we stopped to watch Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington play up with European captain Colin Montgomerie watching them. With McDowell walking to his shot, this wondrous music began wafting up from the bottom of the valley. It was soul-stirring stuff rising from a stage below, where Ryder Cup officials were preparing for the opening ceremony. It was the kind of sound that touched something ancient in your soul. It made you feel like charging a castle door. Or defending one. It was the Welsh National Anthem.

There must have been 15,000 people jammed on that hillside alone for the final practice round. When McDowell stuck his shot close to the flagstick, a roar erupted. The shot didn’t even count. I don’t get goose bumps at sporting events much anymore, but I got them there in a practice round.

Best birdie I ever saw

My favorite golf moment this year came near my home at Orange County National outside Orlando, Fla.

It’s a moment for golf fathers everywhere.

Orange County was host to the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament this year. Lots of fathers beamed over what their sons did on the Panther Lake and Crooked Cat courses at Q-School, but my moment unfolded a month earlier on the Tooth, the terrific executive course there. It’s a nine-hole trek that’s perfect for father-son or father-daughter bonding. Kids play for free.

My 11-year-old son, Jacob, playing just his fourth or fifth round of golf, set up at the eighth tee. He was determined to make his first par since learning the game. With the pin back, the par 3 was playing about 140 yards. There’s water guarding the front of the hole, bunkers left and right. With a fairway wood, Jacob hit a pretty little fade over the pond and hit the green with his ball running about 30 feet right of the flagstick. It might have been the first green he ever hit in regulation.

With Jacob over his putt, I wondered what it would be like if he actually ran the putt in for birdie. I found out. With his putt looking like it was going to die agonizingly short on the lip, the ball made one last glorious wobble and tumbled over the edge.

Jacob leaped, then I leaped, and I'm not certain we touched the ground until we floated home to tell his mom.

If you’re a father who plays golf with your child, I hope you have a moment as grand as that. If you don’t, I hope your moment awaits in a Happy New Year.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

A post shared by ETPI (@etpi_performanceunit) on

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Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 11:56 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match-play format provides fireworks. Almost always.

In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.

This year, for the third time in the past four years, the final outcome came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama on Wednesday when junior Haley Moore defeated senior Lakareber Abe on the 19th hole.

The Wildcats also won NCAA titles in 1996 and 2000, the latter when current Arizona coach Laura Ianello was on the team as a player.

“Arizona is my home, it is where I went to school and [the championship] needs to be back home,” Ianello said. “So I am so proud to be the coach to bring it back.”

Two days ago, Arizona was in the midst of an epic collapse. The Wildcats were safely in the third position after 54 holes of stroke play and needed only to be inside the top eight after 72 holes to advance to the match-play portion of the event.

But they played the worst round of the day and were on the outside looking in with one hole remaining when junior Bianca Pagdanganan made eagle on the par-5 18th hole. That propelled the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor that they ultimately won.

On the first day of match play, Arizona continued to ride the wave of momentum by defeating Pac-12 rivals UCLA, the top seed, and Stanford, a match-play stalwart the past three years.

Next up for Arizona was Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country and the second seed this week after stroke play.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a hell of a ride,” Ianello said, attempting to take pressure off her team, which, on paper, looked like an underdog.

But you know the saying, anything can happen in match play, and often does.

Alabama coach Mic Potter put out his three first-team All-Americans in the first three spots hoping to jump out to an early lead. Junior Lauren Stephenson played poorly in the opening match and lost, 4 and 3, to freshman Yu-Sang Hou.

Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight dispatched Wildcats Gigi Stoll and Pagdanganan easily in the second and third matches.

Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas beat Angelica Moresco, 1 up, in the fourth match meaning the fifth and final match, which was all square after 16 holes, was going to decide the NCAA title.

Lakareber lost the 17th hole when her approach shot sailed well short and right of the green in thick, gnarly rough. She attempted to advance the ball but could not and headed to the final hole 1 down.

With seemingly every golf fan in Stillwater on site, including several men’s teams here to participate in next week’s championship, Abe hit a laser second shot into the par-5 18th hole setting up a 12-foot look for eagle. Moore missed her birdie putt and Abe won the hole to set up extra holes to decide the championship.

In the extra frame, Moore was left of the green in two shots and Abe was short in the greenside bunker. Moore chipped to 4 feet and Abe’s bunker shot was 6 feet away. Abe missed, Moore made and Arizona walked away with the hardware.

“It means so much, it’s actually like a dream,” Moore said. “I’m just so happy for my team right now.”

Potter has been a head coach for 35 years – at both Furman and Alabama – and finally was able to collect his first NCAA Championship in 2012. Being so close to a second one will sting for quite a while but he will be able to live with the outcome for one simple reason.

“They fought their hearts out all year,” Potter said. “I just want to congratulate them for the way they battled, not only today, but in match play. Everyone gave their best on every shot - that’s all we can ask.”

Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2

Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3

Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3

Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2

Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up

Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.